Clean Reader is a free speech issue

How many languages do you speak?

More apropos – how many languages do you read?


I think the appropriate analogy here, is to printed books.

Since we already outlaw the viewing of books through filters (covering one eye, peeking out between the fingers, wearing protective lenses, under artificial lights, or in translation) the same should apply to ebooks.

Additionally, all modern literary criticism acknowledges that The Author is The Supreme Authority With Whom We Shall Brook No Disagreement. Thus, we should honor the authors spoken or unspoken intentions at all times.

And, by the way, if you even THINK of reading this post while wearing pants you are in violation of the EULA you implicitly accepted by reading. Any wearing of pants during the reading of this post completely misses the point, and violently changes the intended meaning.

I’m guessing you would think I’m an idiot for reading Don Quixote in English.

1 Like

(#2 prolly doesn’t belong, but is here for FUCKING SHITS and giggles)

Now, what’s the difference between an e-reader and a browser?

Think carefully. This does count towards your final grade, and spelling counts.

1 Like

That didn’t answer my question at all.

If I sold my app that can search-and-replace text in any ebook on your tablet, I’d be doing it for money.

How is my app legally different from Clean Reader?

Remember, the search-and-replace on Clean Reader happens after the user has legally bought an unedited, verbatim copy of the book.

1 Like

Don Quixote is public domain and translation of copyrighted works do require the copyright owner’s approval.

We already see that in practice in the USA and it’s scary stuff.

Sure, but cptnrandy wasn’t making a copyright argument.

By the sound of it, your app would work on eBooks already loaded on your tablet not eBooks you purchased through the app which is significantly different than Clean Reader. Also by the sound of it you’d be selling just the “filter” and your app would make money just on the search and replace feature not on royalties of every book sold through its catalog.

On Mar. 26 Inktera tweeted:
“In support of #authors #readers #books everywhere, the @Inktera bookstore system has been pulled from @CleanReader, effective immediately.”

Freedom of speech covers both the defenders and the detractors of this app. That being said, First Amendment rights do not make anyone exempt from laws or litigation. While I realize that the intention of this app’s creation was probably benign, I find it extremely unethical.

The way technology impacts art and art impacts technology is always a worthwhile discussion. Thank you for creating this forum.

The damn thing is buggy, so Playing with it is not a enjoyable waste of time.

(From Makers*, by Cory Doctorow… Squeaky Clean Mode.)

I have not bothered to make an account, nor really dig into whether “Parental Controls” can disable the [Off,Clean,Cleaner, Squeaky Clean] menu.


(I’m guessing you’re replying to me.)

This is an arbitrary, technical difference.

If my company, SamSamBooks, sells an eBook reader which has the rights to legally sell eBooks through an associated store (as many eBooks readers do), then we all agree that this is all fine, legally, and morally unblemished.

If my company also sells an app that allows you to search and replace text in eBooks that are already on your tablet, you’ve agreed that this is also fine.

Now I bundle up my two apps into one app, allowing you to do these two, distinct things, and all of a sudden I’mi illegally breaking copyright law and morally corrupt?

The two features that this app sells are distinct. 1) It’s an eBook reader with a store, just like many others. 2) After you have downloaded an unedited, verbatim copy of a book, you can search-and-replace the text on your own personal copy.

Neither of these things are morally corrupt or illegal by themselves, they aren’t when they’re bundled.

Note that there are a billion other ways that they could have “bundled” these two functions, including making just the search-and-replace app and asking users that please use their Amazon code when buying books. That would have had the same net result for everybody.


download the app, run a epub through it.

see this excerpt from Doctorow’s Makers

Unless the government or some other authority mandated this app, it’s not a freedom of speech issue, is it? I’m certainly against an app like this primarily for the reason that it seems to corrupt the work of art in question. Whether there’s a law being broken in that regard I don’t know. But freedom of speech?

A lot of us on boingboing are into speculative fiction. We extraopolate from the now into the future. I think you’re onto something, when you hedge your position:

Unless the government or some other authority mandated this app.

because it is theoretically possible to implement a mandatory policy without being a government.

For instance, on certain bluray discs and dvd discs, certain commercials (and FBI warnings) are unskipable. Most, if not all licensed players contain code that will respect the unskipable flag, because it would violate the licensing aggreement not to implement this misfeature. Most players are licensed because the discs are encrypted, and it is too difficult to crack the encryption, and because the government regards unlicensed decryptors as circumvention devices.

In a perfect world, unlicensed decryptors would be mathematically impossible, and the private individuals who presently rely on laws to protect their monopolies would be able to produce self enforcing licences. They would be able to act as governments, and they would be able to dictate the terms of any contract, no matter how unjust. To argue that censorship is the regime of “governments” and not private individuals ignores the real problem of private monopolies occupying the role of government.

Cleanreader does not seem to have the sort of “parental controls” that would enable this sort of tyranny over students, children, users of public libraries, submissives in a BDSM relationship, so the argument that Cleanreader carves out an exception to the first amendment is flawed.

What Cory is arguing is that Cleanreader, as a purely voluntary scheme, is a potentially desirable act of free speech even when applied to copyrighted works. If I want to read Makers with the dirty wirds blocked out, that would be my choice, and to block that choice (for the sake of Moral Rights) would conflict with my first amendment rights.

Personally I don’t agree with Cory. The question, however, is whether my personal aversion to bowdlerization should have any legal, or quasi
legal effect on those who would like not to see the word " cunt" on their ereaders.

Yeah, it is a freedom of speech issue because the reason you can’t do this is because of DRM, enforced by the government.

Clean reader is now toast, because the DRM book platform was pressured into removing withdrawing Clean Reader’s access to its books. Nobody can create a clean reader app, or even a dirty reader app that dirties up your clean books, of any real utility because books are sold with DRM that companies aren’t allowed to bypass.

unless those books are sold/distributed without DRM, as many books are.

Seems more like a nuance of copyright law to me. Is it “fair use” to muck with a work or not. I still don’t see it as freedom of speech, personally.

There’s at least one notable exception (and probably more that I’m unaware of, both notable and non-notable): Huckleberry Finn, which is being distributed in a ‘school edition’ with N- replaced with ‘slave’. This is both a good example and a bad one, because it’s atypical in two ways: for one thing, it’s atypical in that the work is in the public domain (and as a result, the class of restrictions that people are talking about involving licensing won’t apply); for another, it’s atypical in that the particular censorship in question warps and subverts one of the major themes of the novel in many readings – taking a reconstruction-era story in part about how racial attitudes prevail and turning it into what appears to a cursory inspection to be an antebellum story. The fact that such a version has been published and adopted indicates that similar changes might be welcomed by educational establishments if the publishers are not opposed to it (and by organizing against it, the writers are trying to indicate to the publishers that they wouldn’t approve of contracts that allow it with their work).

I personally don’t have a problem with the existence of CleanReader (outside of a general distaste with the idea that people would prefer to bowlderize work rather than perform more interesting transformations with it). In fact, I have done similar translations on other works for a laugh (for instance, replacing every instance of ‘gun’ with ‘cock’ in James Bond novels).

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.